Coal has been the driving force behind Southeast Kentucky's economy for decades, but often times at the expense of the forest. Friday, more groups joined the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative to find the best way to keep both.
It's something we see everyday in the mountains, but not here.
"While the trees were planted out here, nothing else was, so the blackberry, the ragweed, the golden rod, the polk weed, the ferns and the queen anne lace, the seed was deposited here by either the wind or a bird," said David Ledford with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
This is the old strip mine land at Perry County's Starfire Mine. Researchers from the University of Kentucky believe they've finally found the right way to grow trees on land coal operators struggled with for at least two decades.
"As the things started to age to eight years, they developed a canopy and we started to see progress equivalent to what we would see in a re-growth," said Dr. Christopher Barton, UK Assistant Professor of Forestry.
"We can actually recreate a head water stream," said Dr. Richard Warner, UK Extension Professor.
While researchers have perfected part of the problem with reforestation, national leaders are here to figure out the rest, like how to grow a botanic garden on a site like this or what wildlife could be reintroduced here.
"They had to make a choice. Do we have our coal or do we make our forest and what this is showing us and all the people coming together are showing us is that, that choice doesn't have to be made, we can have both," said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Dale Hall.
For more information about ARRI, you can visit their website, http://arri.osmre.gov.